Sunday, October 04, 2009

Grandchamp: "THE BOYS OF ADAMS' BATTERY G: The Civil War Through the Eyes of a Union Light Artillery Unit"

[The Boys of Adams' Battery G: The Civil War Through the Eyes of a Union Light Artillery Unit by Robert Grandchamp (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2009). Softcover, maps, photos, notes, roster, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:258/313. ISBN: 978-0-7864-4473-1 $49.95]

Battery G, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery participated in nearly all the major engagements fought by the Army of the Potomac, from the Peninsula in 1862 onward. During Petersburg Campaign's final breakthrough on April 2, 1865, members of the battery accompanied the assaulting infantry, with the intent of manning captured guns and turning them back on the enemy. Performing this task superbly, seven battery mates were awarded the Medal of Honor. Robert Grandchamp's The Boys of Adams' Battery G is a quality unit history, well worthy of chronicling the service of these men. Along the way, more general insights into the organization, arming, training, and the battlefield roles of Union volunteer batteries are also gained.

Grandchamp's chapter length narrative summaries of the Rhode Islanders' role in each battle and campaign are quite good. They begin with the Peninsula (most specifically Fair Oaks) and move on through Antietam, Fredericksburg (both 1862 and 1863 battles), Gettysburg, Granite Hill (fought during the Gettysburg retreat), Mine Run, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Cool Spring, Opequon, and Cedar Creek, before ending with the final spasms of the Petersburg Campaign in 1865.

Unit histories, especially battery studies, often suffer from a dearth of maps. Here, they are provided in both high numbers and quality [the Granite Hill map is especially descriptive]. Fairly good at marking both troop positions and terrain features, each map does explicitly mark the battlefield position(s) of Battery G, an essential feature that all too many unit studies lack.

The book's subtitle, The Civil War Through the Eyes of a Union Light Artillery Unit, aptly describes the content, as the author mined an abundance of manuscripts and other primary source materials. A stroll through the Acknowledgments section indicates that Grandchamp also consulted a large number of noted experts on each battle. A detailed roster is included as an appendix, as well as a few unit demography tables.

Good battery studies do not exactly abound in the Civil War literature, making Grandchamp's book all the more important, both as a font of information and an example for others to follow. The Boys of Adams' Battery G is a fine unit history. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. I've just begun to read "The Boys of Adams' Battery G" and find the book to be highly informative and well-written. Robert has very obviously conducted a tour de force of research on a once obscure topic of Rhode Island and Civil War history. Modern histories of Civil War artillery batteries are rare. Robert has set the bar high. -- Dan Peters, M.A., Groton, CT, Dec. 20, 2009.

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